Image credit here. The trailer where an 11 year old girl was assaulted.
Victim-blaming. No-one does it better than a court reporter, it seems.
In this case we’re talking about allegations involving a group of eighteen men and teenage boys raping an eleven year old girl in Texas. The New York Times article, which is being thoroughly picked apart here by Mother Jones seems slanted towards concern for the welfare of the boys involved and what this whole matter might be doing to the reputation of the town. (Hint: not great for your reputation, but not because we think your town is full of slutty eleven year olds!) There are also nice little examples of victim-blaming (the eleven year old was a trashy dresser, apparently, which explains everything) in the piece, and even a bit of good old-fashioned mother-blaming (though not aimed at the mothers of the perpetrators but rather at the mother of the eleven year old victim). MotherJones says:
This is the point at which, as the writer’s editor, I would send him an email. “Dear James,” it would say. “Thanks for getting this in! I have some concerns that we’ve only got quotes from people who are worried about the suspects (‘The arrests have left many wondering who will be taken into custody next’) and think the girl was asking for it, especially since, even if she actually begged for it, the fact that she is 11 makes the incident stupendously reprehensible (not to mention still illegal). We don’t want anyone wrongly thinking you are being lazy or thoughtless or misogynist! Please advise if literally no other kinds of quotes are available because every single person who lives in Cleveland, Texas, is a monster.”
Since the publishing of the Times article the Public Editor has written this follow-up to their piece. Not quite an apology, not even quite an admission of wrong-doing in their writing, but significant none the less.
The story quickly climbed The Times’s “most emailed” list but not just because of the sensational facts of the crime involved. “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,” published on Tuesday, reported the gang rape by 18 boys and men of an 11-year-old girl in the East Texas town of Cleveland.
The viral distribution of the story was, at least in part, because of the intense outrage it inspired among readers who thought the piece pilloried the victim.
My assessment is that the outrage is understandable. The story dealt with a hideous crime but addressed concerns about the ruined lives of the perpetrators without acknowledging the obvious: concern for the victim.
While the story appeared to focus on the community’s reaction to the crime, it was not enough to simply report that the community is principally concerned about the boys and men involved – as this story seems to do. If indeed that is the only sentiment to be found in this community – and I find that very hard to believe – it becomes important to report on that as well by seeking out voices of professional authorities or dissenting community members who will at least address, and not ignore, the plight of the young girl involved.